Insight Radio’s Robert Kirkwood spoke to Pete Coffey, Professor of Cellular Therapies at the Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London; about the recent stem cell trial and what it could mean for the treatment of AMD.
You may’ve heard the about the first patient in the UK to receive experimental stem cell treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This condition is the leading cause of sight loss in the developed world, with about 600,000 people in the UK currently affected.
This is a great result and the next big step in the treatment of AMD. It is, and this is one of the first trials where we’re actually looking at whether placing these cells back into the eye will actually benefit the patient and whether we’ll get their vision back. So it moves the field forward substantially.
How was the surgical procedure carried out?
Sight loss occurs in patients with AMD because the disease causes cells at the back of the eye that support the seeing part of the eye to die. So we have grown new eye cells from stem cells to replace those. They are surgically implanted into the eye. We’re performing a procedure that takes potentially less than an hour, and is both safe and effective.
The operation has taken place on one patient so far in this trial. How long until you have the results from that?
We’re hoping that by the end of this year we should discover if the patient has regained her vision, which would be a great result.
This patient is the first in the UK. How long has it taken to get to this stage?
The London Project to Cure Blindness was set up in 2007. I naively thought we’d be able to get to the clinic within five years. It’s taken us eight years to get to this point. But we’re already talking to various groups including the NHS to see, if these initial trials are successful, we can accelerate the process so it actually does get into the NHS and the clinical population quickly.
So what’s next for this experimental treatment?
The London Project to Cure Blindness We eagerly await the outcome of the first procedure. In total 10 patients will receive the treatment in the trial, and if successful and safe, we hope the whole thing will move forward quickly.